Cash for Clunkers panned by car collectors, used-car dealers

The federal Cash for Clunkers program has thawed an otherwise icy new car market, but not everyone is feeling the warmth.

Numerous auto collectors, advocates for the poor, used car dealers and nonprofit organizations that make money on donated cars have been decidedly cool to the Car Allowance Rebate System program that prompted many Americans to buy a new car in recent weeks. Environmental and consumer groups also have raised concerns.

It's a cautionary tale that has plentiful precedents in the nation's car-obsessed history: Any movement in the massive auto industry typically produces unwanted ripples elsewhere.

For example, Katina Rapton, general manager of Mel Rapton Honda in Sacramento, noted that while her dealership took in an eye-popping 80 clunkers in exchange for new Hondas from July 27 through Tuesday, the dealership's used car operation suffered by comparison.

"We've just been so busy with Cash for Clunkers that the used side sort of slipped," she said. "I can't complain. I know it will come back. It's a cyclical business."

U.S. auto industry analysts have estimated that three out of every five clunkers turned in by consumers attracted by government rebates would otherwise have ended up for sale on a used car lot.

Advocates for the poor have complained that some of the clunkers being turned in, never to be used again, could have supplied basic transportation to needy individuals who can't afford to pay for even a moderately priced used car.

Likewise, car collectors and entities that actively seek donations of old cars say they would rather restore clunkers or turn them into a revenue source, instead of seeing their drivetrains destroyed and their remains chopped up for parts and scrap.

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